Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Jury Recommends Life Imprisonment for James Fields

Jury Recommends Life Imprisonment for James Fields

An American neo-Nazi who drove his auto into a group of counter-protesters previous year during a white supremacist rally in Virginia, killing a woman, was sentenced to life in prison by a jury on Tuesday.

A jury sentenced him to life in prison on Tuesday and an additional 419 years, The Washington Post said.

Last week, James Fields was found guilty on all charges, including first degree murder.

A sentencing verdict was reached shortly before noon Tuesday, after about four hours of jury deliberations over two days. He replied that sentences usually run consecutively, but that jurors could recommend concurrent sentences if they choose. Judges in Virginia often go along with the jury's recommendation.

Fields rammed his vehicle into the counter-protesters on August 12, 2017, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of other people.

A day earlier, jurors heard emotional testimony from Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, and from several victims struck by Fields on August 12, 2017, during the Unite the Right rally that weekend.

Testifying for the defense, University of Virginia School of Medicine professor and psychologist Daniel Murrie told the jury that while Fields was not legally insane at the time, he has a long history of mental health issues.

Prosecutors presented evidence to prove Fields' malicious intent that day which included memes he had sent about running protesters over with cars, a text with a picture of Hitler that he sent his mother, and prison phone calls after his arrest in which he called Heather Heyer "the enemy" and said her death "doesn't fucking matter". She said she was "content" with the sentence but told those gathered that they had to keep fighting for the cause her daughter died for.

"I would like to say that racism and allegiance to President [Donald] Trump are not mental illnesses", she said.

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Fields was attending last year's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville when counterprotesters demonstrated against the white nationalists. She also suffered a broken spine and still hasn't been able to return to work. The next day was marked by clashes between them, and counter-protesters.

The Associated Press reported that Bro said Fields was trying to "silence" her daughter and "I refuse to allow that".

Fields's lawyer Denise Lunsford called him a "mentally compromised individual" and urged the jury to consider his long history of mental health issues when considering a sentence.

She told the jury, "Please know that the world is not a safe place with Mr Fields in it".

Fields had inexplicable volatile outbursts as a young child and he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age six, Murrie said.

The "Unite the Right" rally was one of the largest white supremacist gathering in America in decades.

Fields had driven overnight from his hometown of Maumee, Ohio, to take part in the rally that protested the removal of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Afterward, Trump inflamed tensions even further when he said "both sides" were to blame for the violence.

The 10 charges Fields faced in this trial in the Charlottesville City Circuit Court are separate from the 30 federal charges he faces that relate to hate crimes.

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